At the time of European settlement, grassland habitat dominated more than 50 percent of Illinois. Now less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the original tallgrass prairie exists. Historic surveys indicate that grassland communities were once common within the Upper Mississippi River floodplain and included a mosaic of tallgrass prairie on drier sites and wet sedge meadows on wetter sites. Most of the original prairie and wet meadow within the floodplain was converted to agriculture.
Grasslands and wet meadows provide important habitat for many wildlife species of concern, including Henslow's sparrows, grasshopper sparrows, sedge wrens, upland sandpipers, and American woodcock. Fire played an important role historically in creating and maintaining these habitats. Prescribed burning on a periodic basis is essential to maintain plant diversity and habitat quality for wildlife.